Tag Archives: Peppers

Spanish Chicken

10 May

“Braised chicken thighs” sounded so… je ne sais quoi… so I labeled this one ‘Spanish Chicken’. The flavors are reminiscent of a sunny day on Barcelona’s Las Ramblas, sipping cool white wine with a Mediterranean breeze blowing in my hair… whilst being hand-fed marinated olives by Javier Bardem… I took this too far, didn’t I?

I randomly stumbled upon this Martha Stewart original whilst browsing the worldwide web for dinner ideas. The photo looked so inviting that it compelled me into submission. Since I’m terribly headstrong creative, I didn’t really stick to the exact directions. I also added a hefty pinch of saffron threads and substituted white wine for water, cause why have water when you can have wine… said Jesus. (Come on now, MarthaWater?Really?)

This turned out fabulous. And while I served it with mashed potatoes, a good honk of crusty bread would have been a better choice. The chicken juices married with the sweetness of the peppers & white wine, make for a soupy sauce so packed with flavor that it simply commands the superior sopping-qualities of country French bread. The brininess of the olives is there to break through the sweetness of the peppers… and also in case Javier decides to drop in for dinner. Oye. Speaking of delicious olives… I’m sure they’re not extra-virgin. I know. Please forgive me.

 

SPANISH CHICKEN

For the original recipe, click on the Martha Stewart link above

– a few splashes of olive oil

– 12-15 boneless, skinless chicken thighs

– 3 red bell peppers, sliced into strips

– 3 yellow bel peppers, sliced into strips

– 1 medium-size onion, sliced into strips

– 10 large garlic cloves, roughly pressed or cracked with the flat size of your knife (not chopped)

– 1 28-oz can of whole tomatoes

– 1 15-oz can of plain pitted green olives, drained

– 3 dry bay leaves

– 2 Tbsp of sweet paprika

– 3 Tbsp of fresh thyme

– a hefty pinch of saffron threads

– 1 cup of dry white wine (pick one you also love drinking)

Prep all veggies and set aside. Trim fatty sides of chicken thighs, and salt & pepper them thoroughly.

In a large Dutch oven, over medium-high heat, add a splash or two of olive oil and brown chicken thighs on all sides. Set aside when browned, they do not have to be fully cooked yet.

In the same pot, add onion, garlic & peppers and sauté for 5-7 minutes until starting to get soft. Add olives and tomatoes with their juices, gently crushing the tomatoes into coarse pieces with your hand. Add white wine, bay leaves, paprika, thyme & saffron and season the lot with salt & pepper. Stir and bring to a boil.

Turn heat to medium-low and return chicken & juices to the pot, nestling the chicken thighs into the veggie mixture. Gently simmer for 30-45 minutes until the chicken is fall-apart tender. Remove bay leaves and serve hot.

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Cashew Chicken

5 May

Rats.

I think I just blew the ‘Blogger of the Year’ award with my 14-month hiatus. Sometimes, life just gets in the way. I find it a Herculean task to gather some quiet time for creative writing in our 2-bedroom apartment filled with a husband, 2 grown man-children, 2 cats and an endless selection of stuff that magically roams from its proper storage space to the couch, on to the dinner table and that one corner of the house where “it” will live for the next 3 months, before continuing its orbit to the ottoman… until such time I get tired of the mess and return “it” to its proper storage space… or – more often than not – vocalize my annoyance to the troops and demand order… PRONTO!  I have ideas that fill my head space, you know. They collect in that tiny little brain cavity next to the “What  am I cooking for dinner?” box and the “Oye. I need to do laundry!” bin of random thoughts. In order to materialize these thoughts onto proverbial paper, one needs time… or an alternate reality, whichever comes first. [note to the creator of said alternate reality: please give me curly hair and make me a size 8. Full stop.]

This concludes my paragraph on why I haven’t written on my blog. Also referred to as the ‘whiny paragraph’…

Recently, the man-children started their first full-time job. While this is certainly cause for celebration, it also brings another conundrum: housework is automatically deferred to yours truly, cause you now they are busy and tired… Pardon me while I take a deep, prolonged breath, y’all… I could launch into another darker paragraph, but I truly do love my men and I shall bear my cross passively until my next melt-down.

Yesterday was one of those days. I needed something quick, cheap and packed with flavor. I find that Asian stir-fry’s nearly always deliver on this trifecta that is every working servant-less (wo)man’s dream. (One has to be careful with assigning gender-rolls lately. Insert sarcasm here.) A wok helps, but you don’t need it and I find that I can easily adapt recipes to fit my cast-iron skillet or low Dutch oven. I know it’s not authentic. I know it’s not how it’s supposed to be. Please don’t email me. Please?

A long, long time ago… when I was single and traveling  from the kitchen to the hamper  the world… My friend & I backpacked Thailand. Drenched, tired from hopping tuk-tuk’s all day and starving, we quickly ran into this obscure little restaurant with faded turquoise walls, an Elvis poster and a coca-cola vending machine. The sky had opened and unleased a torrential downpour on us. The metal bistro table & chairs stuck to our clammy skin, but it felt good to get some relief from the excessive heat. Reading the menu was as adventures as our travel plans were. I had no idea what “Gai Pad Med Ma Muang” was, but I tell you, that cashew chicken was heaven on a plate.

 

 

CASHEW CHICKEN

For the chicken mixture:

– 1.5 lbs of boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite-size pieces

– 0.5 cup of cassava flour or regular flour

– 1 red bell pepper, sliced into thin strips (julienned)

– 1 yellow bell pepper, sliced into thin strips (julienned)

– 1 medium-sized onion, sliced into thin strips *julienned)

– 1 cup of raw, unsalted cashew nuts

– 5 green onions, green parts sliced into chunks on the diagonal

– 1-2 cloves of garlic, minced or grated

– 1-2 dry red Thai chilies, thinly sliced (julienned)   *** if you do not like heat, leave these out  ***

– 1 cup of peanut oil (you can use any oil you like, but make sure it has a high heat tolerance)

Toss chicken pieces into the flour and coat each piece thoroughly, shaking off the excess.

In a wide heavy pan, add peanut oil and bring the oil & pan to high heat, over medium heat. You don’t want to burn the oil, you just want to give your pan enough time to get really hot. REALLY, ok? This a long-sleeves type dish, people.

Toss cashew nuts into the pan and fry in the hot oil for a couple of minutes until golden. Set aside on paper towels. Repeat with the Thai red chilies, if using, and set chilies aside when crisp and bright red.

Leave oil in the pan and fry chicken pieces until golden brown on all sides. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Pour off any excess peanut oil, but leave about 2 tbsp behind.

Throw all of the bell pepper slices and onion into pan, together with the minced garlic and ginger. Stir and sauté until the peppers are soft and onions translucent.

Add chicken pieces, cashews & Thai chilies back into pan and add a ladle (0.5 cup?) of the sauce below. You will not need all of the sauce, just add enough sauce to cover everything until you reach sauce-level you like.

Add green onions and sauté another minute or so.

Lastly turn off the heat and sprinkle green onions over the dish. Serve hot over a bowl of rice.

For the sauce (this makes a lot of sauce and you can some for later)

– 0.50 cup light soy sauce

– 0.25 cup dark soy sauce

– 0.25 oyster sauce

– 0.50 cup of chicken stock (or water)

– 1 tbsp of brown sugar

– salt, pepper to taste

– 1 clove of minced garlic

– 1 inch piece of fresh ginger, grated

Combine all ingredients and whisk. Set aside.

I usually do this in a large mason jar and give a good shake. Whisking is so overrated. Also, I can then place the jar in my fridge for another stir-fry later on. I find that it generally keeps fresh in the fridge for 7-10 days.

Spanish Chickpeas with Chorizo & Piquillo Peppers

18 Feb

Shortly before the holidays, my friend & pastor Erika G. tagged me in a Facebook ad she saw from a local kitchen supply store, with the mentioning that I simply ‘had to’ respond. “This is so you!”, she said, “You should apply!”. I don’t know how or where she saw the ad, but I never did and Lord knows I spend enough time on Facebook food pages that I should have seen this. Anyway, considering the fabulous Erika G. is my pastor, I think she was summoned by divine intervention and then asked to channel one of the three wise men and deliver this gift to me… by means of modern communication, rather than camel.

The ad in question came from Surfas-Culinary District, and it was an open invitation to all local food bloggers to apply to become a ‘product reviewer’. Sounds fancy, huh? I nearly wet myself from excitement. Not only have I been a customer of theirs for several years, but more importantly, I love that store. As in ‘luuuuvvvvv’. I totally understand that this sounds fishy now that I’m an official Surfas endorser, so to speak, but if you’ve followed this blog, then you’ve seen me write about Surfas long before I even applied to their ad. And my friends know that if they dare ask me where to find something, I send them to Surfas. Plain & simple. The walk-in store in Culver City, CA is the perfect combination of industrial urban-ness and artisanal food shopping, and while the building and/or atmosphere inside may not be as visually elegant as ‘Sur La Table’ or ‘Williams-Sonoma’, there is nothing you can want that Surfas doesn’t deliver… It’s foodie heaven, I tell you. My mother knows this too, and a trip to Surfas is on the agenda every time she visits from Belgium. It’s also my ‘go-to’ place when she tells me that she *must* find natural squid ink to make black risotto or a ‘thingy that looks like a pincette but is much larger’, which some random celebrity chef uses in Cecilia’s favorite cooking show on Belgian TV… You can bet on it that Surfas has that too.

But we digress… Last Saturday, my package with the first few items arrived. I’ve long wanted to try Piquillo peppers, and yesterday was my lucky day. Piquillo peppers are in the chili family, and are traditionally grown in the Northern part of Spain, where they are harvested at peak ripeness and then roasted whole and preserved in brine. The peppers are small, with firm sweet flesh and no heat. They are named after a bird’s ‘piquillo’ (get your mind out of the gutter) or beak, since the peppers have a pointy shape. The fruit very much resembles regular roasted red peppers, but they are sweeter and with a distinct flavor I can’t quite place my finger on. I guess you could say they have a more intense pepper flavor and their texture is firmer yet silkier than that of a regular roasted pepper.

Most recipes for Piquillo peppers call for the peppers to be stuffed with anything from cheese to ground beef & fish. However, I wanted to make a meal out of it yet stay true to the flavors of Spain at the same time. The result was pretty darn tasty, and I served it alongside a grainy artisanal bread to emulate that Mediterranean flair.

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SPANISH CHICKPEAS WITH CHORIZO & PIQUILLO PEPPERS
(adapted from a recipe for ‘Garbanzos con Chorizo’ that I found on the Internet)
– 4 13.5oz cans of chickpeas
– 1 13.5oz can of crushed tomatoes, unseasoned
– 1 13.5oz can of Piquillo peppers, sliced into ribbons
– 3 Tbsp of tomato paste
– 4-5 cloves of garlic, crushed or finely chopped
– 2 shallots, finely chopped
– 7oz of dry chorizo, sliced in thin slices or cubed finely
– a few good slashes of cooking sherry
– 2 Tbsp of fresh oregano, finely chopped (or 1 Tbsp dried oregano)
– 1-2 Tbsp of Piment d’Espelette or another hot pepper like cayenne or a dash of sriracha
– salt to taste
– parsley, for decoration

Preheat oven to 350F.

Drain chickpeas and rinse until no longer foamy. Drain Piquillo peppers in a separate sieve and slice each pepper into thin ribbons.

In a cast iron skillet or heavy pan, brown the chorizo until it starts to sweat and turn color a little bit. You don’t want it to be crispy at this point. Add chopped shallots and sauté until shallots turn translucent. Add tomato paste and minced garlic, and cook for additional 1-2 minutes. If your pan is getting a bit crusty, add a splash of cooking sherry and scrape up any bits.

Add chickpeas, pepper ribbons, crushed tomatoes, Piment d’Espelette and oregano, and fold everything to combine well. Pour a few splashes of cooking sherry over the heap of yummy goodness and bake for approx. 15 min at 350F until the top is slightly crispy and the chickpeas are heated through.

Sprinkle some chopped parsley over the top for prettiness, and serve alongside grainy bread or rice.

Smoky Mexican Chicken Soup

29 Nov

Yesterday was Thanksgiving here in America. It’s a day on which we are thankful for the blessings we have in our lives, and an excuse to pig out on crispy roast turkey, candied yams, creamy green beans, tart cranberries, butter-laden rolls and pumpkin pie. Heck, let’s throw in some pecan pie too, for good measure.

After roasting my favorite holiday bird with all the trimmings, eating like the end of the world was nigh, doing all the dishes… Twice!… and cutting into both a pumpkin pie and a pecan pie, I fully collapsed at 5:03P and woke up 3 hours later with Mr. Farklepants caressing my arm and lovingly asking me if I wanted to get up or sleep through the night?! Oh, you turkey, you!

I managed to get back into a conscious vertical position long enough to polish off another slice of pie and then crashed in tryptophan fantasyland until 6:17A this morning, when torrential down pours alerted my brain that I drank entirely too much yesterday. I wish I was one of those people that could jump right back on the snooze train, but once I’m awake, there’s no turning back… It’s my mother’s genes, you see. My genetic make up is the kind that creepily stands by the edge of your bed at 6A, menacingly watching your every eye twitch for a sign of life, and warning you promptly that the day is ticking away. I defiantly did go back to bed, but genetics prevailed.

I schlepped myself into our kitchen with that post-party trepidation we all know so well, and was pleasantly reminded of the fact that, pre-tryptophan TKO, I already cleaned up the turkey battlefield that is Thanksgiving cooking. Hurray! Feeling victorious, I tuned on the TV so I could get outraged at people’s pathetic behavior on Black Friday, poured myself a cup of coffee, squirted whipped cream directly in my mouth and enjoyed the last remaining slice of pumpkin pie, because…I felt sorry for it?!

I’m impressed with the dent we made into that gorgeous turkey too. And to work away some of the leftovers, nothing says rainy post-Thanksgiving what-are-we-going-to-do-with-all-that-turkey?! bliss more than a smoky hearty soup. While I named this one “chicken” soup, anything goes and it’s the prefect vessel to sail right back into tryptophan land… For all other 51 weeks, use rotisserie chicken!

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Smoky Mexican Chicken Soup
(Inspired by traditional Mexican Cuisine)
– 2-3 cups of leftover cooked turkey or rotisserie chicken, shredded
– 1 red bell pepper
– 1 green Pasillo pepper
– 4-5 ribs of celery
– 1 medium onion
– 1.5 cups of corn, thawed if frozen
– 1.5 cups of black beans, cooked or canned
– 1.5 Tbsp of ground cumin
– 1 tsp of hot smoked paprika
– 2-3 hot peppers in adobo sauce, diced (use more for a more spicy soup)
– 2 15oz cans of diced tomato
– 3/4 cup of fresh cilantro, chopped + more for garnish
– 6-8 cups of chicken broth
– 1.5 cups of smoky BBQ sauce
– salt & pepper to taste

Dice all vegetables and sauté over medium heat until softened. Sprinkle with cumin and paprika, add hot peppers in adobo sauce and sauté a few minutes more to blend the flavors.

Add canned diced tomato and chicken broth, and bring to a boil. Let simmer until all vegetables are soft.

Add BBQ sauce, shredded chicken or turkey, corn, beans and cilantro. Bring to a boil and simmer a few minutes more to warm through.

Ladle in bowls and garnish with fresh cilantro, sliced green onions, sour cream and/or grated Mexican cheese.

Hearty Polish Sausage & Beans

11 Sep

I consider myself to be a resourceful person. My ‘creative thinking’ ability was evidenced at a young age, when I once received a homework assignment from my strict Catholic school, with the instruction to listen to the Pope’s Easter mass & speech and fill out a 100 item questionnaire about it. Faced with the horror of having to sit through 4 hours of televised prayer in Latin – on Sunday no less! – I told my teacher that our TV was of a communist brand and that therefore we weren’t able to tune into the channel in question as our airwaves were censored by the Russian Orthodox Government. I think I should have gotten an honorable mentioning for such creativity, but instead I got to copy the “Ten Commandments”… 25 times!

I entirely blame my mother for this kind of quick-witted creative thinking. After all, she was a pro at it herself and she was known to smite the nonsensical ways of the strict Catholic establishment on a routine basis. As an example, when she was hired by the private convent school in question, the bearded dragon head nun made it clear to her that she was expected to wear a long, calf-length skirt & stockings, and to refrain from engaging the girls in any scandalous or improper activity such as, but not limited to: cartwheels, splits, summersaults, exercises that required us to spread our legs, headstands or anything else that could potentially expose the Lord to juvenile indecency. Since it proved futile to reason with the clergy about the scholastic curriculum of a physical education class, my mother creatively taunted the school’s ridiculous policy and showed up for her first day on the job wearing a long skirt… with a snazzy pair of shiny red metallic Adidas sweatpants underneath!

Creativity and independent thinking ranked high on our mother’s list of virtues she deemed necessary in life. She made sure our little brains were exercised daily, and she made it a point to teach us to think outside the box and to never accept nonsense as suitable answer or solution.

I’ve had to be creative with our food budget on many occasions, but when I came home to a virtually empty fridge yesterday, it gave culinary creativity a whole new meaning. With payday still 3 days away, I took a quick gander in our pantry and figured I could manipulate a recipe for Polish sausage & beans I saw on Pinterest a little while ago. The result was a hearty & flavorful stew of tomatoes, peppers and kielbasa, and it received two thumbs up from all of us.

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Hearty Polish Sausage & Beans
(Adapted from a Pinterest recipe)
– 3 15oz cans of your preferred beans (*)
– 1 Polish sausage or Kielbasa
– 1 large red bell pepper
– 1 large green bell pepper
– 2 medium yellow onions
– 2 Poblano peppers
– 6-8 cloves of garlic, crushed and chopped finely
– 1 28oz can of crushed tomatoes
– 1 Tbsp of sweet Hungarian paprika
– 1/4 cup of fresh dill, chopped
– 1/4 cup of fresh parsley, chopped
– salt & pepper to taste
– 2 Tbsp of extra virgin olive oil
(*) You can use any beans you like, but I prefer a combination of white cannellini beans, black beans & pinto beans.

Drain and rinse beans under cold water, set aside.

Chop peppers and onions into large dice. Crush garlic with the back of your knife, and chop into fine pieces. Slice kielbasa into small rounds.

Heat olive oil in a heavy pot, and sauté peppers, onions and garlic until beginning to soften. Add crushed tomatoes, paprika, dill, parsley, salt & pepper, and simmer until vegetables are soft.

Add kielbasa and beans, and allow to simmer until everything is warmed through. Serve over brown rice or with a crusty loaf of bread.

Naughty & Nice Hot Pepper Jelly

9 Aug

My burning love for hot peppers, all pun intended, didn’t fully develop until I hit Californian soil and damn near scorched the skin off my upper lip with a habanero chile salsa, because “how hot can it be?!” , she said with an air of disbelief.

Right. Carry on…

Unlike many Southwest natives, I didn’t grow up with chiles. As a matter of national embarrassment, I don’t even recall ever having seen hot peppers in my Flemish grocery store? Then again, cooking with hot peppers was such an oddity in Belgium in the early 1990’s, that I may have unduly ignored peppers altogether. It’s a dark void in my memory, like that time where I lip-synced Duran Duran’s ‘Hungry like the wolf’ in my bathroom and got caught. Don’t ask. It’s too painful.

After all these years, I’m slowly but surely learning to navigate my way around the many varieties of spicy hot peppers. Occasionally, however, my inner-Sacagawea brazenly surfaces during farmer’s market strolls and I inadvertently end up destroying a Flemish taste bud or two, encouraged by this kind of peppery food porn:

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The idea of a hot pepper jam didn’t even occur to me until my colleague Alex channeled her inner-foodie and excitedly told me about ‘the best’ jam she’s ever eaten! She confessed she could smear it on just about everything… well, maybe not everything. Either way, we made a pact that I would try my hand at recreating her fantastic pepper jelly, if she became a follower on my blog. I’m totally cheap that way.

I know how to make jam as Belgians are big on canning and preserving sunshine, what with our 9 months of rain and all, so I accepted the challenge. This jelly turned out beautifully and so flavorful! And yes, I too will boldly smear this on anything that will hold its deliciousness…

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NAUGHTY & NICE HOT PEPPER JELLY
(Adapted from a recipe by ‘River Cottage Preserves’)
– 1.5 lbs of sweet peppers (red, yellow or orange), approx. 3-4 large
– 3 small scotch bonnet peppers or habanero peppers (*)
– 3 red jalapeno peppers (*)
– 1 medium size red onion
– 1 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar
– 2.5 cups of white sugar
– 1/2 cup of dry white wine
– a pinch of red pepper flakes
– a small pinch of saffron
– 1.5 oz of fresh grated ginger
– zest of 2 lemons
– 1.5 oz powdered pectin
(*) you can use any combination of peppers you like. For a few pointers, check out my friend Debi’s blog over at Life Currents)

Chop sweet peppers in half, removing bitter white ribs and seeds. Slice into thin ribbons, then into small dice. Chop onion into very small dice as well. Peel and grate (or finely chop) the ginger.

Scratch whatever itch you may have on your face now, because you’re done touching your face for the next few minutes!

Chop hot peppers in half, remove white-ish ribs and seeds, and chop into very fine dice. Try not to breathe through your nose or touch any sensitive areas, as the capsicum in these babies will avenge you get to you.

In a heavy, non-reactive pan, place sweet & hot peppers, grated ginger and onions and pour apple cider vinegar & white wine over them. Sprinkle pepper flakes on top and slowly bring to a simmer.

When simmering, add saffron, lemon zest and sugar, and stir until sugar is dissolved. Bring to a rolling boil, then add pectin. Boil hard for 6 minutes to activate the pectin. Remove pan from heat and set aside for 20 minutes.

Ladle jam into small glass jars, and let cool… Or alternatively, for a longer shelf-life, process in a water bath or canning machine.

This jam will remain fresh in your fridge for approx. 1 month.

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